You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme's description of singer-songwriter Dean Friedman as 'legendary': one single that peaked at #26 on the Billboard Charts does not a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee make. You could be forgiven for rolling them even further when he appears on stage looking a lot more like some guy in a Hawaiian shirt and white sneakers than a living legend. As soon as Friedman opens his mouth, though, the label starts to make a little more sense.
Friedman's career may not have spawned many hits, but in his prime he had undoubtedly one of the sweetest soft-rock voices around. Happily, his voice has lost none of its saccharine charms in the 35 years since he first made moderate ripples in the charts: fan favourites like ‘Ariel’, ‘Lydia’, ‘Woman of Mine’ and ‘Rocking Chair (It’s Gonna Be Alright)’ are all present and correct and sound as good as ever, albeit stripped of any of their old sax solos and Beach Boys-style harmonies in this entirely solo show. Just as much as his voice, it's Friedman's lyrics that help these songs to stand the test of time: lines like 'Do you still love me? You mean you're not just being nice?' reflect an adolescent approach to romance that just doesn't age.
Along with the sugary love songs for which he is best known, Friedman's show is peppered with anecdotes and more recent numbers from his comedy album ‘Squirrels In The Attic’. Although this is presented as comedy songs for adults, fans of musical comedy acts that have broken more recently might be surprised by the total lack of bite in these tunes. A riposte to a song by Half Man Half Biscuit, in which singer Nigel Blackwell claimed to be Friedman's bastard son, is about as barbed as it gets and even that song is delivered with a note from Friedman that Half Man Half Biscuit are, despite everything, 'a kickin' band'.
The comedy in Friedman's set is as soft as the rock, but expecting any different would be missing the point. Dean Friedman, truth be told, is not a legend, but those who find themselves singing along to Phil Collins or secretly thinking that Arthur's Theme might be the greatest song ever written could still have a good time with this old-time songster.